Five minutes with …

Posted on 17 July 2019

Hinemoa Conner has been a Ngāti Apa ki te Rā Tō Trustee since 2011, and while she may now live in the Far North, she’s still a West Coast girl at heart.


Tell us a little about yourself.

My late mother, Meryl Dawn Gilsenan is my immediate link to our Puaha te Rangi hapū and my tipuna is Hoani Mahuika. My late father, Makoare (Mac) Matiu gives me my link into Te Aupouri, Te Rarawa and Ngāpuhi Iwi in the Far North.

My early years were spent with my mum and dad and brother Russell in the rural town of Inangahua on the West Coast. We went through the Inangahua earthquake and our little town never quite recovered with most people choosing not to return. My dad received a BEM (British Empire Medal) for bravery for services during the earthquake and I am to this day extremely proud of him.

I went to school at Inangahua College in Reefton and headed to Christchurch after college to start a career. I met my husband James Conner (from Edinburgh in Scotland), we married and have an adult son James Alexander who is a creative director, living in Auckland.

I guess if I were to describe the things most important to me it would be my whānau and friends (and cats). I treasure and value the memories we have all created over the years. I have been blessed with a loving and supportive family, both immediate and extended, and have friends who seem to love my quirky West Coast ways.

Also important to me is service to iwi and community. I have spent a lifetime serving on various committee’s and boards. There have been challenging moments, but the moments of satisfaction far outweigh anything else.

How long have you been a NAKTRT trustee, and what was it that sparked your interest to become actively involved?

Like most board members, I was approached by family members to ‘take my turn’ and put my name forward. I’m thankful to say I have been a board member since 2011. Most of the hard work had been done in terms of Treaty negotiations prior to my time on the board. However, I did attend hui during the pre-settlement process, so I was always interested in the future of our iwi.

What have been some of the milestones during your time as a trustee?

Being part of the post-settlement process, particularly setting in motion the cultural revitalisation process, having the whakapapa position established, seeing the commercial arm of the business developed and functioning so successfully. Now that we are generating income, it is refreshing to be able to plan goals for education, conservation, and marae or marae alternatives, etc. Chairing the Education Sub-Committee has been a highlight, particularly seeing our scholarship applicants succeeding in their chosen fields.

We are starting to tackle an education policy for the future: having initiated a hui with our own iwi educationalists has set the foundation for moving forward. We have some wonderful professionals and they have given their time to help formulate and progress an education vision.

Seeking guidance from iwi as to their aspirations rather than second guessing or assuming we as a board know best has been very important and has helped shape some of our thoughts for future projects. As a consequence, iwi engagement has grown and that is very satisfying.

What would be your advice to whānau considering becoming more actively involved in their iwi, and perhaps putting their hat in the ring to become a trustee in the future?

Be familiar with the broad skill sets required of directorships. It’s OK to learn as you go, but in my view some of the key skills required are having an understanding of the founding documents and legal requirements; a broad understanding of statutes and regulations; a diversity of views; a ‘big picture’ context and having ideas but bringing these to fruition through influence, discussion and debate. All these sorts of attributes are needed on the board. My advice is to own a view but be prepared to debate and discuss. Take on board other people’s perspectives, know how to think logically and strategically, and equally of importance, have a heart for our iwi.

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